Out with the old and in with the new

GF8_MX5 (4)The AGR garage has had a shakeup, with the old MX5 replaced by an old WRX.

It all began back on Australia day (late January for our international friends) when an old high school friend phoned and invited me along on a day of kayaking he had planned. I hadn’t taken my kayak out in years and had been meaning to for a while, so I excitedly made my way to the shed and began removing it from the rafters.

Until I finished dusting the forlorn kayak off, it had somehow escaped my consideration that with my Fiat X1/9 still in a state of restoration disassembly and an NA Mazda MX5 as my daily wheels, I didn’t actually have any method of transporting the vessel. I studied my MX5 and its roll bar carefully, it becoming like one of those team-building problems so favored by corporate learning facilitators on office training excursions. With no apparent way of affixing the kayak to the MX5, and no tea break filled with dull coffee and Scotch Fingers to escape to, I was forced to call up and cancel my attendance at the kayaking trip.

GF8_MX5 (7)In four years of ownership, this was the first time I had ever admitted defeat. That MX5 has carried road bikes, complete sets of wheels, large rolls of plastic sheeting, a Fiat engine block and even a gearbox or two. But the kayak was not to be.

I sat lazily in front of the television that night with my girlfriend Chantelle, and with a bottle of wine cracked we put on a Top Gear special for some mindless entertainment. And it was there, watching Hammond sliding that old world rally blue Bug-Eye WRX hatch through the wilds of Africa, that the mind-cogs began to turn. After Chantelle went to bed I stayed up late that night scouring Carsales in detail. It turned out that old Rexes were actually a lot cheaper than I expected. Uh-oh.

GF8_MX5 (1)The fascination with Rexes wasn’t completely fresh, mind you, as I was a wide-eyed ten-year-old at the height of WRX madness in the late 90’s. I spent hours watching replays of ARC rounds I’d taped from channel 10’s RPM program, where Cody Crocker would slide his Group N GC8 to endless third-places behind the WRC spec weapons of Possum Bourne and Neal Bates. I cheered them in person with excitement at the local Coopers Pale Ale Rally SA. I made my Dad take me to Eblens Subaru to collect sales brochures, and then tried to convince my elderly grandpa to buy a WRX when he was shopping for a new car. I even read about the modifications the Osman Brothers were pioneering in Hot 4’s magazine. At $40,000 the WRX was the ‘performance bargain of the century’ in 1999, but as a penniless kid still six years away from possessing even a drivers license they might as well have been a million dollars. They were out of reach. Continue reading

2013 MSCA Sprint Round 1 and why I like driving slow cars fast

DSC_0137The first track day of the year is always an exciting affair. New cars, new modifications or just simply a chance to blow the cobwebs out, the heart always skips a beat as you drive through the entry gates for the first time.

DSC_0185First there’s the nervous wait for scrutineering, and then the ugly pause before the first session begins. It’s been four or five months since some of these cars have had a decent scoot, and the mind wanders to all of the little things that need re-checking. Everybody just wants to get on with it!

DSC_0177Drivers briefing has never been a more painful affair. ‘C’mon, just let me on the track already!’.

DSC_0070It was the first time out for Garren in his new NB MX-5.

DSC_0010Garren is usually found behind the wheel of a Fiat, and was a longtime competitor for many years in his quick 124 BC. Life and family and kids etc got in the way and he was forced to give it up for a while, and this was his first event back in over 7 years. You couldn’t wipe the smile off his face! Continue reading

A sunny public holiday in Hahndorf

This morning I found myself in the shed, working on my Fiat X1/9 restoration project. At about 11am I temporarily downed the tools in one of many short ‘frustration breaks’ and walked out onto the back lawn where I was completely awestruck by just how much of a stunning day it was. A man shouldn’t be relegated to miss such a rare gift from above, I reasoned, so I hastily developed some shakey justification as to why I really needed to meet some friends for lunch at Birdwood.

After all, the MX5 was ready and waiting in the driveway. How could I say no? I try to keep the MX5 prepared at all times for such impulse decisions.

After a long lunch in the sun at the Birdwood Hotel and a surprisingly traffic free run from Lobethal to Norton Summit via Basket Range, I ended up in Hahndorf. Being a beautiful public holiday the town was understandably packed with tourists, and also quite a few interesting cars. I spotted enough in just an hour’s stroll through town to justify a dedicated post.

The hills are always going to be popular with motorbikes, and I parked just down from a solid lineup of Italian exotica. Everything from Carl Fogarty Ducati 999 replica race bikes with LOUD Termignoni carbon pipes, to classics like this 900 Super Sport.  Continue reading

OZGymkhana series – Gymkhana1

It takes a dedicated group of individuals to organise a motorsport event, and a lot more goes on behind the scenes than any spectator or competitor usually realises. What’s even more amazing is when a group of volunteers decide to run a completely new type of event that’s never been run before. In addition to the usual myriad of organisational tasks, there are a few other hurdles that need to be overcome such as finding a location, finding a way to fit it within the event structures of governing bodies (ie CAMS), and last but not least, actually convincing competitors and spectators to come.

The team at Ultimate Motorsport Events (and the Southern Districts Car Club) are no strangers to staging impressive events – the Mt Alma Mile hillclimb and Adelaide Hills Tarmac Rally form their annual portfolio, so they were the perfect group of volunteers to run the first ever OZGymkhana event.

UME make no secret that they got the idea for OZGymkhana from the famous Ken Block Gymkhana practise videos, and the event was borne from the thinking that it would be pretty cool to run an event like that in Adelaide. The team picked Tailem Bend Motorsport Park (the old Mitsubishi testing and proving grounds) as the ideal location because of its mix of a long runway, skidpad and several curving access and test roads.

OZGymkhana runs on the principles of traditional bitumen motorkhana; you go from a standing start, navigate a series of obstacles and then finish when you come to a complete stop at the finish line. You are penalised by a few seconds for hitting cones, or penalised quite heavily for a ‘Wrong Direction’, ie going the wrong way through the test. The competitor with the fastest accumulated time after all tests is declared the winner. Continue reading

Supersprint Round 4 & Porsche club motorkhana

Perfect weather and perfect track conditions accurately sum up Round 4 of the MSCA Supersprint series. Instead of going through each individual performance, I’ll focus on a few of the highlights of the day as well as taking a quick look at the Porsche club motorkhana which was simultaneously taking place on the skidpad.

Guy Standen had the 124 out in its final shakedown before our Targa Adelaide campaign next week. Apart from a minor gearbox issue which has since been rectified, the 124 performed faultlessly and is ready for 4 days of tarmac rally action.

This Evo 10 won the award for biggest spoiler and ended up setting a high 1.16. It probably should have been at WTAC in Sydney though, which was happening on the same weekend. Continue reading

What did you do with your sports car this Easter?

I’m sure a lot of our readers would have found themselves in a similar situation this weekend – a couple of days off work and a sports car in the garage. It’s like a choose your own adventure novel, the different possibilities are endless.

We chose to head down to the Coorong for a couple of nights of camping. What did you do?

The problem we face as a group is that most of us are into sports cars. Normally not an issue, but it means that when we decide to go camping we own some of the most unsuitable cars around.

But that’s alright, navigating these roads in a car with little ground clearance and low(ish) profile tires is just another challenge. And it does feel pretty good to watch the urban cowboys in their Landcruiser’s and Pajero’s go past, knowing you just navigated that bit of road in an MX5.

Your reward is priceless beers around the fire, boating adventures and a crystal clear view of the heavens above… when it wasn’t raining.

So what did you do with your sports car?

MSCA Round 5 Supersprint 2011

I had a pretty busy day the other weekend at the MSCA Supersprint. It was billed as a bit of a test and tune day, a time to try out new things. I took my stock 1990 MX5 out to see what it would do, which turned out to be just three hot laps before it began to overheat. I wasn’t too stressed though, I guess you can’t expect too much from a 265,000km used car. My best time in it was a 1.38, but I think there’s definitely another few seconds in it with more than just a handful of laps. However the modifying bug has truly bitten, and every spare moment now is occupied looking at suspension parts, roll bars, wheels and induction kits for it. So much for a daily that I promised would stay standard. Hmm.

I then jumped in our Alfa (above) and did a round of 5 laps in that. The old Alfa never misses a beat, and I managed to slide down to a 1.28.78. I know this car is capable of at least a second faster (I’ve done a 1.27.7 in it) so it was a little frustrating to be stuck in 28’s. But then again, it was a full 10 seconds quicker than the Mazda so I guess it’s not all bad.

Continue reading